Monday, July 17, 2017
Monday 7/17 marked the 30th anniversary of the release of RoboCop. It's no secret that we here at The Signal Watch are fans of the 1987 sci-fi cyborg opus, and, so, over the weekend, we watched the movie for 476th time.
The first time we caught RoboCop, it was at a one-screen, old-fashioned movie house in Ishpeming, Michigan, when we were on our annual visit to see the grandparents in the summer of 1987, and - for whatever reason - my mom decided we needed to not spend another evening pounding soda in my grandparent's living room, and, instead, pound soda out of the house.
We alerted my mom to the idea that the movie was Rated-R, but the KareBear and Admiral were fairly liberal about this sort of thing, and in the era of Arnie, if my dad wanted to watch the latest Rated-R action releases, he was watching them with us, so we were getting pretty well desensitized to violence in movies, is what I guess I'm accidentally saying.*
Saturday, June 3, 2017
Like most kids of my generation, I grew up with Wonder Woman as the default "superhero for girls". Sure, DC had a wide array of female characters, but a lot of "team" concepts aimed at boys included 1 or maybe 2 girls on the team no matter how big the roster got (see: GI Joe). And on Super Friends, Wonder Woman was the all-purpose female character who was not Jayna of The Wonder Twins of Wendy of Super Marv and Wendy (ahhh, the 70's).
|but at least they gave WW two villains from her rogues gallery|
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Thursday night we had nothing queued on the DVR, the Cubs weren't playing and I was pondering what we might put on the tube when Jamie said "Why don't we watch Commando?"
I immediately ran over and began trying to remove the Jamie-disguise from whomever was pretending to be my wife, but eventually it was revealed that, no, it was her, and she didn't care what we watched. She had seen my recently purchased Commando BluRay collecting dust on the shelf for months, earnestly waiting a viewing, and - as she loves me, some times she takes pity on me.
Now, if you know me, you know of my ironic/ totally not-at-all ironic love for Commando (1985), an early-ish Arnie picture that was part of what catapulted him to superstar status that would reach peak popularity around 1992.
In the harsh light of reviewing this movie in 2017, the movie probably seems positively camp. While it certainly has some gags and Arnie-isms, it was never intended as a yuck fest - but Arnie was part of a wave of a certain kind of action movie that wasn't afraid of a sense of humor. And I can easily watch it as a straight action movie of workmanlike success, just as I can enjoy the movie for the truly bizarre specimen and reflection of a certain mentality in mid-80's actioners that it is. OR I can enjoy it as the Platonic Ideal of 80's Action Movies/ Movies in General.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Last weekend Turner Classic Movies' Saturday night programming block "TCM Underground" showed Thrashin', a 1986 movie about skate boarding. So, of course I set the 'ol DVR.
No, this is not Gleaming the Cube - which I've never seen, and came along 3 years later.
Most of the marketing for Thrashin' I was aware of came in the form of an ad or two appearing in my comics at the time. So, check the backs of your 1986-era comics to see if you, too, have a back-cover ad for this opus.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
The Alamo Ritz was showing The Dark Crystal (1982) in 70mm, and while I like The Dark Crystal, Jamie is a bonafide fan of the movie. No lie, in this case, Jamie appreciates The Muppets on a much deeper level than me.
There's no reason for me to re-hash the plot or tell you anything you already know. If you grew up within a certain age-range, it's highly likely you saw this weirdo movie at some point. But even as a kid I think I always appreciated the movie as a technical achievement and artistry writ large more than I got really into the characters and their issues. And tonight, after 35 years of seeing this movie on and off, I think I figured out why.
Jen is a total weiner.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984) was the second Trek movie I saw, the first being Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I expect we saw it in 1985 as we watched it on television - either VHS or on cable, so I would have already been very familiar with the cast of characters by this point as 1984 was the year I discovered Trek reruns on our local UHF channel, KBVO.
I liked the movie then, and I was delighted to find I thoroughly enjoyed it all over again. Frankly, it's been forever since I'd seen this movie despite the fact it came with the Star Trek BluRay set Jamie gave me a few years ago for Christmas, and I didn't have particularly great memories of it from the last time I'd seen it, which could have been fifteen years ago. At the time, I mostly just relished Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon ship's captain who is not so clever as he believes and is simply outclassed by Kirk and Co.
But there's a lot to recommend The Search for Spock. It's a movie that does a fine job of raising stakes, having some fairly dark implications, but is eternally, against all odds, optimistic as our heroes fight bureaucracy, Klingons and the forces of nature for the sake of a friend. And you can't get better than that.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
It's literally impossible to imagine this movie getting made in the last ten years. A studio film that's a musical wherein the leads are actually lip-synching to mostly tin pan alley versions of 1930's era songs, and, by the way, it's more or less a depressing late-1970's story that maybe is deconstructing the conventions of the movie musical. Cheerfully titled Pennies From Heaven (1981) and starring the lovable duo from The Jerk, Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters.
We wanted to see it as The Alamo Drafthouse had included clips in the La La Land pre-show as a modern musical we might not have seen. And I was curious why I had heard of the movie, but it's not discussed much and I don't recall anyone ever telling me to check it out.
I think if I'd been clued into any of this before the movie, I might have enjoyed it more than I did. But I spent the first thirty minutes trying to figure out what I was even looking at, and then adjusting to what they were doing.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
So, this was one of the Bond movies I was absolutely positive I hadn't seen before. I would have been 14 when it came out, and for the life of me, I have no idea how I missed a Bond movie coming and going over the summer when I was that age, except for family vacations and summer camp colliding to make it difficult. I even remember reading about how this wasn't a typical Bond movie, and that sounded kind of interesting.
But, you know, it didn't work out. Never saw it.
Well, we finally arrived at the second and final Timothy Dalton Bond, and while I will go to the mat supporting Dalton, it's hard to know exactly what was going wrong as they put these things together, but it's an oddball of a movie, certainly. And you can see what they had in mind for this movie, and how the 1980's influenced everything about this movie rather than Bond influencing other action movies as it had once upon a time.
But at least Q actor Desmond Llewelyn got a tropical holiday out of it all.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
This movie doesn't have the best ratings, but there's a lot to like in The Living Daylights (1987). Maybe not everything is grand, and I feel like the back 40 minutes got away from them, but all in all, I enjoyed this the most of any Bond we've watched since For Your Eyes Only.
Look, I may like Roger Moore as much as the next person who grew up with him as Bond, but he made some very, very silly Bond movies (lest we forget Moonraker) and by View to a Kill, I was firmly believed this was a man who should not be running anywhere without a spotter, let alone that Tanya Roberts would be throwing herself at Grandpa Roger. That he did not openly wink at the camera seems somehow unbelievable.
I can't say I need my Bond more grounded. I love The Spy Who Loved Me, and that has a sneaky kidnapping boat and an undersea villain's layer. But I also want it to feel like maybe my Bond is not treating itself like a parody. And with The Living Daylights, we get back to what feels like good old fashioned international intrigue, a plot that holds together very well (if not entirely a mirror to our own world), and makes Bond feel like a secret agent rather than a gentleman who gets into ridiculous scrapes.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
On the social medias, Jake asked me if I thought Never Say Never Again was better than Octopussy, and I told him I'd think about it. I'm gonna go with "Octopussy is the clearly more fun of the two movies, but Never Say Never Again is the better-thought-out and probably smarter movie. Less clowns." But what I will say is that both are much better than Moore's final outing as 007, A View to a Kill (1985).
"But, Signal Watch," you say. "That's the first one I saw in the theater! It was fun! Christopher Walken!" Yes. Those are all *facts*. It's why you're nostalgic for this movie. But, my friends, I am sorry to say - this was not a great movie. In fact - it was a bad movie.
What it does have is a killer theme song, courtesy Duran Duran + John Barry. The video is a bit weird as Rhino didn't seem to have rights to anything but the song itself, so, no the video is not broken. Just wait til the 1:17 mark for audio.
As I mentioned with Octopussy, it feels as if View to a Kill was made for children, which is weird, because Bond is still humping his way across the Northern Hemisphere and killing people. So it's likely meant to be some entertainment Dad can take the kids to see and not feel too bad, and lord knows my mom dropped me and my brother off to see this one in the theater with no parental supervision.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Jamie wanted to finally see this rogue James Bond movie - and try as I might, I never quite remember the details of how this movie came to be. I know the ownership of the character - filmwise - was under contention or something, and that problem continued until they settled their differences and we got Casino Royale. So all's well that ends well.
But this film is not by the Brocollis or at MGM. As the film's credits rolled at the end, Talia Shire gets a special credit as a consultant to the producer, her husband, Jack Schwartzman. Always glad to see Talia Shire is keeping busy. And, of course, it starred a 53-year-old Sean Connery (really in terrific shape) coming back to the role that made him.
I was shocked to figure out I had never seen Never Say Never Again (1983), making this one of three I am positive I've never seen all the way through. Or, if I have seen it, I have totally forgotten it, but that seems marginally unlikely as I've realized here and there what I've seen before as we've gone along.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Way back in the long, long ago of 1988, I saw Scrooged in a sold-out theater on opening weekend.
There's not much else to tell. I remember liking it well enough at the time, felt it was funnier than I expected, and went on with my life. Sure, I've seen it a number of times over the years since then - enough so I couldn't even roughly guess. And, it's one of those movies I'll watch just parts of as I flip channels.
But the thing is - and I don't know if I'm going out a limb saying this - Scrooged is a very, very good movie. It is. I don't mean that it's a really funny movie, though it is that. Stepbrothers makes me laugh like a loon, but it's not necessarily a *good* movie although it succeeds at its goals. But I tend to think of Scrooged less as a lightweight holiday comedy (see: Christmas with the Kranks. Or, do not.), and more of a solid entry in the movies that earn a place in the Christmas movie pantheon.
And, it just might be the best to-film adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Of all the Bond movies, this is the one I'd argue is the one most made for 13-year-old boys. It's got James Bond fighting Russians, engaging with a circus, dressing as a clown, gorilla, roustabout and knife-thrower within about 45 minutes of runtime. There's an all-girl island, a castle escape and a submarine that looks like a crocodile.
Not maybe coincidentally, I think I liked this one a lot more when I was 13 than when I was 41.
And, of course, the lead of the movie is the titular Octopussy (1983), a name sure to drive everyone into peels of uncontrollable giggling.
This isn't, by any stretch, one of the best Bond movies, and it may be one of the least memorable Bond films in general. It has a couple of good set-pieces, and a few set-pieces that probably sounded better than they were in execution, but mostly the plot is a bit whispy and blandly convoluted.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
I've really embraced the idea that Die Hard (1988) is a Christmas movie.
In theory it takes place on Christmas Eve despite the fact the Nakatomi Corporation is having its holiday party on Christmas Eve, which... What Dickensian rules is your company playing by? And why is Holly leaving her kids at home with her poor nanny who probably has friends and family of her own she'd rather be with?
Saturday, November 26, 2016
For no particular reason, we watched Return of the Jedi this evening.
It seems dumb to write up a Star Wars movie, so I won't. We were going to watch A New Hope, but decided to wait til after Rogue One.
But, man, Luke is the world's biggest back-seat driver.
Monday, October 31, 2016
In some ways, there's no way in hell this movie could have been made any other time than a certain window post 1985 or before 1991. In other ways, this world is just now catching up to what Cassandra Peterson and company were saying, and an idea that I suspect people of my generation (and older) have a harder time grappling with than the kids today.
I'm not here to argue that Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988) is a bleeding edge comedy, because it has more in common with a sort of groan-inducing shenanigans with a sort of Looney Tunes style of thinking, topped with a winky, we're-not-taking-this-seriously vibe that lands pretty squarely in my wheelhouse.
Monday, October 17, 2016
Sunday evening, SimonUK and I went to an Alamo Rolling Roadshow presentation of An American Werewolf in London (1981) - one of Si's top movies (like, he would watch this every day if you let him), and certainly one of my favorite films. It's just fun, chaotic, werewolf-laden mayhem with a nice bit of really dark humor winding through it. And, of course, Jenny Agutter.
I'm pretty sure I've written this movie up before, so no real point in doing so again.
The Rolling Roadshow is a series The Alamo Drafthouse offers wherein they bring an inflatable screen to an outdoors location and show a film. They do lots of types of screenings from themed-location screenings (Jaws on the water) to showing kids' movies in the park for the whole family. Tonight's theme was Halloween Horror/ tonight was the Super Hunter's Moon - a very bright full moon. So: werewolves.
Si and I arrived a bit early, and Simon got a nice fellow to take our picture.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Back in the 1980's, I remember seeing a lot of movies like Critters (1986) on the shelf at the local home video rental shoppe. The boxes would show you a goblin sort of creature, and promised a certain level of horror that wasn't necessarily going to go in for splatter and gore of a Chainsaw variety or even a Freddy Kreuger level of scare. Maybe some broad humor in there, plots as basic as a Dukes of Hazzard episode. It was always maybe a little gorier than a modern PG-13 film, but, in retrospect, there's no question that these movies were basically aimed at kids with VCR's.
There's nothing wrong with it, but I wasn't a fan of the sub-sub-genre.
I don't think I was exactly aware the movie was aimed at me as a 12 year-old-or-so as I was when I saw this movie the first time at someone else's house. My recollection is that the kid was very excited about the movie Critters, and his dad showed up with the movie in hand "hey, I rented CRITTERS!" and I was like "y'okay..." whereas my pal couldn't have been more jazzed had we just been given a stack of fireworks to shoot off all night. He loved the movie, and I just settled in, because... what are you gonna do? So, I've seen it once before.
Point of fact - Jamie and I have been together 21 years this month, and I can't tell you how many times she's mentioned liking Critters as a kid. Or, I guess, watching Critters as a kid.
And so it came to pass that when I said "well, we need to watch something Halloween-ish", she tossed out Critters, and as she has never, ever previously stated a desire to watch any Halloween movie but Young Frankenstein, I just said "y'okay..."
So, we watched Critters.
Monday, October 10, 2016
I remember coming back to school after the summer of 1985 and a good chunk of my classmates were nuts over Back to the Future (1985). I'd seen it in the theater, but even of our own family, I think I liked it the least of the four of us. But I was a little surprised how much my peers liked the movie, and over the past ten years I've been even more surprised to find how much not just my own generation still celebrates the entire trilogy, but Millenials love the movies, too.
I won't say I didn't watch it over and over in the 1980's when it was on VHS or on cable. I've seen it at least 6 or 7 times. But it's been a long, long while.
The movie was on cable last weekend, and I gave it a spin for the first time in a long time, more or less to figure out what I'm missing when I watch the movie that everyone else is seeing. I want to make it clear: this is my deficiency, not anything I think all of you people are stupid for liking. As near as I can tell, there really isn't anything wrong with the movie. And Lea Thompson's many, many iterations of Lorraine over the trilogy - heck, within just this first movie - is pretty impressive.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Let's not screw around.
Why I wanted to watch this movie: it really, honestly features dozens of live big cats with minimal training, just sort of being big cats. And by big cats, I mean lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, pumas... all in one film, all intermingled with actors trying to perform scenes both engaging with the animals and around the animals. The animals even get a screen-writing credit because, hey, animals gonna do what animals are gonna do - and that clearly drove the story.
It's not a freakshow, but it is absolutely nerve wracking to watch as every bit of your well-honed DNA of thousands of generations of ancestors starts screaming out at you that this is a very, very bad scene, even as the movie is insisting "we should learn to love the big cats and live in harmony with them."
Thanks to, I think, a Hollywood lifestyle bit I was watching about Tippi Hedren back around 2001, I'd been aware of the movie, but good luck finding it back then. Or much information about it. Just the casual mention of "oh, she has a lion sanctuary and this one time she made a feature film with dozens of wild big cats called 'Roar', so, anyway, she's Melanie Griffith's mom..."
It also features Speed director Jan de Bont as a cinematographer, and, apparently he was one of the 70 people injured working on the movie. And, in fact, de Bont was gravely injured when a lion took his scalp clean off his head.